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Subareolar abscess

Definition

A subareolar abscess is an abscess or growth on the areolar gland, which is located in the breast under or below the areola (colored area around nipple).

Alternative Names

Abscess - areolar gland; Areolar gland abscess

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of a subareolar abscess is a blockage of the small glands or ducts under the areola, with development of an infection under the skin.

This is an uncommon problem that affects younger or middle-aged women who are not breastfeeding. There are no known risk factors.

Symptoms

  • Drainage and possible pus from lump beneath areolar area (colored area around nipple)
  • Fever
  • General ill-feeling
  • Swollen, tender lump beneath areolar area (colored area around nipple)

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform a breast exam. An ultrasound examination of the breast may be recommended in some cases. A blood count and a culture of the abscess, if drained, may be ordered.

Treatment

Subareolar abscesses are treated with antibiotics and by opening and draining the infected tissue. This can be done in a doctor's office with local numbing medicine (anesthesic). However, if the abscess returns, the affected glands should be surgically removed.

Expectations (prognosis)

Prognosis is good after surgical treatment.

Complications

Subareolar abscesses may return until the affected glands are surgically removed.

Calling your health care provider

Contact your health care provider if you develop a painful lump under the nipple or areola.

References

Iglehart JD. Smith BL. Diseases of the breast. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed.Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 34.

Lester SC. The breast. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 23.


Review Date: 11/21/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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